The Minister for Heritage, John Penrose, today agreed with campaigners arguing that new powers are needed to help secure the future of Britain’s heritage assets. The minister was responding to a debate in parliament organised by Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, in response to public outcry over the continued deadlock surrounding the future of two key sites in her constituency - the Walthamstow Dog Track and the former EMD Cinema.

Mr Penrose accepted communities need more help from Government to secure the future of listed buildings, such as the EMD Cinema and the Dog Track, where owners of heritage assets fail to respond to viable alternative proposals and achieve only the minimum standards of maintenance. He also confirmed that any planning decision around the future of the Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium must take into account the key principles in the planning guidance on heritage concerns. As this guidance is currently under revision, campaigners to save the track supporting a proposal to restore it had feared these principles would be lost.

Speaking after the debate, Stella said: “I am delighted that the minister has acknowledged communities need better powers to prevent  owners of heritage sites from holding on to precious community assets indefinitely while allowing them to deteriorate. The EMD cinema in Walthamstow has not only a fantastic history but a key part to play in our town centre’s future through the plans of the Waltham Forest Cinema Trust and I will work closely with the Government to help us secure this for the benefit of my community.

So too I’m pleased he confirmed the principles of planning guidance 5 will be applicable to any decision on the future of Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium. This guidance states clearly that local authorities must take into consideration any viable alternative for the site which is in keeping with a heritage asset’s original purpose. The existence of alternative proposals for this site which would restore dog racing and bring much needed jobs to our area must be taken into consideration and is a strong reason why plans to turn our iconic stadium into flats must be rejected.

I also asked the Minister to come to Walthamstow to see first hand these sites and our ambitions for them - in the weeks ahead I will certainly be following up on his commitments with both the Government, English Heritage, the council and the local community in trying to secure the potential of both sites to benefit Walthamstow.”

ENDS

Notes

·  The debate, entitled “the future of heritage assets”, took place in Westminster Hall from 11am to 12.30pm today, Tuesday 7 June 2011.

·  To find out more about the campaign to restore the EMD Cinema, visit http://mcguffinfilmsociety.wordpress.com/. On the dog track visit http://saveourstow.wordpress.com/.




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